The first time I ever heard about the terms menstruation, period, menstrual cycle, blood flow, was in my Integrated Science class in Junior Secondary School. I was about 12 years old.
As the lesson progressed our teacher observed that the topic sounded vague to some of us, so he took ample time to explain in bits the process of menstruation in order for us to have a good grasp of what he was saying.
As he continued, suspecting mocking murmurs, jests and laughter echoed from the back of the class where most of the boys preferred to sit.
Confused, some of us girls didn’t understand why they laughed and we also didn’t give a thought to it. All that mattered was trying to understand everything our teacher was saying. To get the class back in order, our teacher had given them a strict warning to behave and not interrupt him. On arriving home that day, I went over my note on this very topic that made the boys laugh so hard. Thus, I gained more understanding from my notes, textbooks and subsequent classes.
Two years later, at 14, in my Senior Secondary class one, I felt something unusual right in school. Ooppss! What did I just feel? I hurriedly went to the toilet to check myself and there we were- my period and I. It just happened! I wasn’t prepared! Oh no, I wasn’t really prepared because I had no pad with me at school. But it was safe I already knew what it was.
With this I obtained permission to leave school earlier than usual, got home, bought pad with my little allowance usually given me by my dad, took a bath, padded myself and stayed quiet.
At this time, I was living with my aunt but I’d refused to tell her anything about my first period. I thought to myself: “This is no big deal, I can handle it.” The truth is, I had always wanted to handle my own stuff from back then. (Don’t be like me, tell your mum, dad or guardian upfront).
But on my second period the next month, I felt comfortable enough to inform my aunt about it. After I did, she exclaimed “Oh, such goodnews!” With clear excitement she put a call through to update my mum about my menarche. Then I said to her, “this is actually the second time.” She was so surprised. Right there, I was bombarded with lessons on how to keep a calendar for my cycle, how to care for me and how to accept and appreciate my positive biological change.
Today, I feel very comfortable and privileged educating girls on menstrual health; teaching effective self care management and personal hygiene during menstruation because I want them to accept their bodily change. I want every girl to experience her period without shame and ridicule, but with awareness and confidence.
Since we already have International Menstrual Hygiene Day, let’s further celebrate menstruation by donating free quality sanitary pads and products to school girls. This, is an action I believe will be life enhancing with positive feedback from girls in rural communities and inner cities.